NDN Blog

Voter Vault: GOP Not So Secret Weapon

This intriguing article from The LA Time's Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger caught my eye. (It was originally in the LA Times in June, but for some reason has been reprinted by  the Star Tribune. I didn't catch it first time round.) They disucuss June's election in the California 50th, claiming the GOP won at the last minute by cranking up their legendary vote winning machine: 

The results in the 50th Congressional District did not merely illustrate the potential inadequacy of the Democratic strategy for the November elections; they foreshadowed a much bigger and more startling story line: That even in the face of Republican scandals, sour approval ratings, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and growing public rejection of President Bush's policies in Iraq, the Republican Party still holds the lead in the art and science of obtaining power -- and keeping it.

They go on to outline one of the GOP's systems in more detail:

Some of the GOP advantages are recent developments, such as the database called Voter Vault, which was used to precision in the San Diego County special election. The program allows ground-level party activists to track voters by personal hobbies, professional interests, geography -- even by their favorite brands of toothpaste and soda and which gym they belong to..... Democrats also use marketing data, but Voter Vault includes far more information culled from marketing sources -- including retailers, magazine subscription services, even auto dealers.... Voter Vault, although it is a closely guarded GOP trade secret, is nevertheless easily accessible to on-the-ground campaign workers and operatives should they need to mobilize votes in a hurry.

As NDN's ongoing Tool's Campaign has been arguing, if we lose in November at least part of the reason will be that the ongoing gap in campaign kit. Which, given how badly things are going for the GOP on the economy, the war and the rest, would be painful indeed. 

Tough Months Ahead for Trade

Trade has many enemies and few friends. This was among the most obvious conclusions from the collapse of Doha. Producerist agricultural interests in Europe, America and India all combined to limit negotiator's room for maneuvre. Meanwhile, countervailing pressure from business groups was weak. Ultimately there should have been few surprises that the political scientists favourie scenario - concentrated costs vs diffuse benefits - scuppered the talks. So its nice this morning to see at least the beginnings of a fight back. The Chairman of Citigroup along with a few other CEOs has written to the President, asking for one last push on the talks. What is at stake? A lot. The value of the talks themselves is not insignificant, put at something shy of 300bn by the World Bank. But much more important is the sanctity of the multilateral WTO framework itself. If Doha is junked and replaced by a range of bi-lateral deals, it imperils the authority of the system of trade dispute resolution that the WTO system built. As NDN's Rob Shapiro said at the launch of our Globalization Initiative this system is central to understanding globalization:

More than ever before, everybody shares the same economic rules regarding both how to treat themselves and how to deal with others. This is largely the result of the WTO process, which requires countries like China and India, that used to be organized around monopoly franchises and state enterprises, to open themselves to foreign investment and domestic competition.

Without the WTO system, America has little leverage over its partners in enforcing fair trade rules. That said, we should treat the run in to November with some trepidation. Trade Envoy Susan Schwabb announced a trip to China shortly to discuss ways forward on trade.More worryingly, the coming months are likely to see more trade flare ups, not less. The return of threatened sanctions against China's currency valuation is likely, unless Treasury Sec Paulson borkers a deal. The CFIUS regulations on foreign ownerships are up for review. And electioneering Congressional leaders are unlikely to take kindly to any new job losses that even sniff of having been caused by trade. All in all, choppy times ahead. But one final push by all concerned remains a better option than no push at all.

Immigration Extremism on The Increase

The argument is often made that the incumbency increases partisanship. If winning the primary is all that matters, why bother seeking the middle ground? Yet this morning's Post seems keen to disprove this. Its profiles one of - it not the - closest house race in the country, the Arizona 8th, is a picture of partisan rancour. Immigration is playing such a hot button role in border state races that, regardless of how close a contest might be, primary campaigns are vying for who has the more extreme message on border control. The same is true in areas without primaries, like the neighboring toss-up Arizon 5th. Here, immigration hardliner Jay Hayworth is in a surprisingly tough race, but has rarely softened his outspoken views on border security. Even Rick Santorum, hardly a border state Senator, is using the issue to try and boost his re-election bid. It seems as if the nearer the election gets the more extreme the rhetoric - and the slimmer the chance of reform - becomes. 

Good to be back

Returned last night from two weeks away.   Caitlin and our three kids went on a tour of California, spending a week at Lake Tahoe, a few days in Monterey and ending with beach time in La Jolla.  The weather was great, seeing friends always comforting, and the time with our young family so important. 

Of course a lot happened in these last few weeks.  Castro became ill, Lamont won the CT primary, and a cease fire is being tried in Lebanon.  We awake this morning with the news that global diplomatic efforts to bring peace to the region are failing, as the Europeans are balking at providing troops for the proposed peacekeeping forces.  

It is good to be back, and it was great to be away, but this new diplomatic failure is a grim morning reminder of how much work we all have to do.  The Bush era has ignored some important challenges - health care, the retirement of the baby boom, declining wages, global climate change - and created many more.  The mess in the Middle East today cries out for a grand vision, subtle diplomacy and broad international cooperation for a sustained period of time.  In the old days, creating this new process would be America's job.  In today's world, in the Bush era, in an era of diminished American influence, it is hard to see how we all get to where we need to go in Lebanon and the region. 

NY Times Uses “Cheaper, More Effective Online Tools” to Reach out for New Subscribers

An interesting quote from editor and publisher magazine. It describes the private sector coming to terms with the idea that online can offer a great deal more efficiency than direct mail in reaching out to potential subscribers. Love to see any good studies exist to compare the use of "cheaper, more effective online tools" vs direct-mail to the political sphere...if you know of any post them in the comments here....

"Like print, direct-mail is quickly becoming very retro. Even the New York Times has found recently that it is actually much more effective to sell print subscriptions by using online behavioral analysis to target likely subscribers.

The Times' marketing department recently teamed with behavioral marketing company Tacoda to collect and analyze data about the online behavior of NYTimes.com readers, which then determined which kinds of readers (by interest and geography) were most likely to subscribe to the print edition. Using cookies, the Times determined the rate of subscription conversion across all the sections of the paper as well as 350 different content categories, and cross-referenced the findings with geographic data found in the user's IP address. The paper then could market directly to those people with the highest likelihood of converting (through ads targeted to them specifically). The result, according to Tacoda's Sales Strategy VP Greg Rogers, was a vastly reduced cost-per-acquisition for the paper, and more subscriptions.

In 2006 you can't rescue floundering print products by relying on more print. To prop up and reestablish offline publications you need to work with cheaper, more effective online tools and use your Web presence to highlight your brand to a worldwide audience, some part of whom might be interested enough in your content to buy a print subscription." (cross posted at mobiledemocracy blog)

Of Poker and Partisanship

As a disclaimer, this post is not about the Republican candidate for Senate in Connecticut, Alan Schlesinger. But if you haven't watched his performance on Hardball (it's pretty gruesome), take a look.

Interestingly, Tom Edsall writes in TNR about how party affiliation affects poker play. A few points he uses to back his thesis:

Republicans are much less risk-averse than Democrats, and taking risks is crucial to poker...The party advocating preemptive war is not likely to be cowed by a big bet. Democrats, conversely, are the party of risk-aversion--supportive of the safety net, opposed to new weapons systems, and sympathetic to protective trade policies. They are less able to tolerate the tension and uncertainty of a game in which a week's salary--or more--can be won or lost in a single hand.

Another argument for the view that Republicans make better poker players is that poker rewards what feminists have long considered one of the worst attributes of men: the capacity to "objectify" the other...The game, pitting men against men in a zero-sum competition, is the classic form of evolutionary conflict...But the quick and dirty summary is that the Republican Party's candidates attract a greater percentage of men than women by advocating a male view of life as a game in which the rewards justly go to the winners.

It certainly makes sense, but needs to be clarified and examined further. First, characterizing Republicans as masculine does not make Democrats feminine. This election cycle, at its very least, should prove our ability to go on the offensive. Second, nothing shows that their Darwinian, winner-take-all approach will maintain itself as a long-term governing philosophy. (Check out NDN's use of soccer to brand Democratic values here). As Edsall concludes, "Empathy and affection damage the ability to win. I think the person who probably best understands all this is Karl Rove." For my part, I'd rather keep my sense of empathy, affection, and what's right - rather than giving these up to win at any cost.

Senator Allen and YouTube

(Cross posted at MobileDemocracy blog)

From today’s Rolling Stone poltics blog on Senator Allen, YouTube, and politics. Imagine how this effect will be amplified now that over 40% of mobile phones sales are cameraphones. And how that services like YouTube allow for direct uploading of video from your mobile phone to your YouTube account….

Here is an excerpt:

“There’s a paradigm shift under way and politicians like Allen, and to a lesser extent Joe Lieberman and Barbara Boxer, are learning it the hard way. The barriers to video broadcast are now gone. So an opposing campaign no longer has to rely on a local news station or CNN or CSPAN to run video of a gaffe. Any dolt with a handicam now can capture the unscripted reality of a candidate and disseminate it worldwide.

If it generates enough buzz in the blogosphere, the cable networks will even pick it up, as happened almost immediately with Allen’s monkeyboy dig.

What does this YouTube revolution mean for politics? It’s far too early to tell. One might hope that the omipresence of handicam reporters would mean that all of the artifice of advance teams and printed backdrops and hand-picked crowds of supporters only will be erroded. Unlike the professionals at CNN who play along and film the fakeness because it makes for pretty TV, the YouTubers out there are dedicated to exposing such artifice as an embarassment. And embarassing it is.”

FT on Productivity Revisions. Exciting Stuff.

Its propellerhead head morning on the NDN blog. As if the white knuckle excitement of the deficit figures isn't enough, lets talk productivity. Some weeks ago i'm sure we were all shocked that revisions to historic US productivity figures failed to splash accross the front pages. Undiscussed as these figures might have been on Hannity and Colmes, today they get a good going over in the FT. I'm not going to quote from the article; suffice to say its a very comprehensive overview, and a good primer on the various debates about productivity growth in the 90s, and the stellar growth since. These figures - while they might be dull - do pose an intriguing economic problems. Only recently Chairman Bernanke was bullish on continued increases. He might be right; as this chart from Michael Mandel shows, the trend rate of increase is still upwards. From NDN's point of view, productivity is interesting as part of a wider puzzle about what is happening to the American economy. In particular Rob Shapiro has highlighted the theoretical link between productivity increases and wages. Even the newly revised productivity rises are historically pretty impressive. But perhaps the new lower estimates go a little way to explaining why this important link in the economy is, at least temporarily, broken.

Inaction on the Economy, Please

The President is off at Camp David today, trying to figure out how to make the economic situation look better. This comes against a backdrop of some brighter budget deficit figures yesterday. Barring a crunching slowdown the budget deficit should continue to improve over the next year, as one might expect at this point in the economic cycle where tax recipts grow to reflect economic growth. The same is unlikely to be true of trade deficit, where only an economic slowdown, which will lower imports, will make much of a difference. Nonetheless, as the Times writes today, the longer term picture still looks bad. The official figures look bad enough, but if you add in continaution of the tax cuts and scrapping of the AMT - a tax originally deisigned to stop the very rich avoiding paying any tax at all - it looks very, very bad. But we knew most of this before. Normally progressives slap their foreheads and sigh; given figures like this, wouldn't it be good if the President could do more to aid the economy? Perhaps instead we should glance at Paul Krugman's collumn, which mentions the consensus on wages before moving onto the more fraught issue of economic inequality:

I've been studying the long-term history of inequality in the United States. And it's hard to avoid the sense that it matters a lot which political party, or more accurately, which political ideology rules Washington.... It seems likely that government policies have played a big role in America's growing economic polarization -- not just easily measured policies like tax rates for the rich and the level of the minimum wage, but things like the shift in Labor Department policy from protection of worker rights to tacit support for union-busting.

Given this analysis, more Presidential action might not be what the economy needs. Perhaps we might simply ask the President to join his colleagues in the Congress, and do nothing?

Protectionist Hogwash

What is it with Republican and Harley Davidson factories? In January this year Dick Cheney trotted off to one in Kansas to talk about how great the economy was. And yesterday President Bush was in Pennslyvania astride a hog, talking up the benefits of free trade:

"My concern is that this kind of fear of globalization causes a reaction that will cause us to lurch toward protectionism. That's my biggest concern," the president said in a 25-minute interview with USA TODAY. "I am worried that may be where a country that is concerned about the future heads."

The USA Today piece is interesting, containing as it does some sharp words on the President's patchy record on trade. Nonetheless, his remarks are to be welcomed, and mirror almost exactly the sentiments of Treasury Secretary Paulson's speech a week or so back, as quoted in this excellent Post piece on why "openness should begin at home". But what of Harley themselves? It seems the choice of venue has been somewhat controversial. Dean Baker's Beat the Press page at The American Prospect notes the irony that Harley Davidson was the recipient of tarrif protection during the early 1980s. Reagan allowed the protection during the hey-dey of early 80s jap bashing. Protection basically allowed Harley to avoid going bust in the face of competition from much superior Japanese motorcylces. Its a nice debating point. But Baker's none-too-subtle shout out to the wonderous powers of tarrif protection would likely no longer get much of a hearing at Harley's Milwaukee HQ. The manufacturer has spent the last few years badgering the Commerce Department to help them overcome trade barriers, and get a toe hold in the Chinese market.

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